Clarity Trumps Creativity in Email Marketing

A basic adage of email marketing is that if no one opens your email, they won’t be able to click on anything inside it.  So email subject lines are naturally critical to our success in communicating with our email database.

AWeber recently conducted a fascinating study into what kinds of emails create engagement.  They sent 45,000 subscribers a series of email subject lines promoting blog posts.  One half were “clever” and the other half were “clear.”

Subject lines written creatively included:

  • AWeber’s AWesome Anthony A.
  • Getting Earth-Friendly Beyond Email
  • Threadless’ Frequency Alert: Hot or Not?

Subject lines written with clarity included:

  • Grow Your Email List 99% Faster: How One Site Did It
  • 43 Free Animated GIFs For Your Email Campaign
  • Email Timing: A Look At 6 Marketers

They found that the “clear” headline beat the “clever” on every dimension:

Each channel garnered 541% more response from the clear subject lines on average

The dramatically increased engagement brings a couple of key points to mind:

  1. Your customers are VERY busy. Our inboxes grow on average by 10-15% each year, and we are quickly skimming our inbox for something relevant.  If an email seems irrelevant, it has a limited chance of being read.
  2. A good subject line sells the value of the content inside, and with only a few characters to communicate that, clarity is more effective than creativity.
  3. The consistency of the subject line and the content (messaging integrity) is critical not just  to getting your email opened, but to getting people to engage with your content.  If the subject line and the content of the email (or your landing page) are not aligned, then you’ve just tricked someone into opening your email, which also results in lower engagement.

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